May 2, 2019 / 2:18 PM / 23 days ago

Startups flock to Brazil's top farm show as sector boosts tech use

RIBEIRÃO PRETO, Brazil (Reuters) - Dozens of technology startups have flocked this week to Agrishow, Latin America’s largest farm show, offering services and equipment to help farmers improve productivity as the sector further embraces high tech.

Farmers look at a large grain harvester during the Agrishow farm equipment fair in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil, May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Marcelo Teixeira

These small businesses, from Brazil and abroad, offer products that help farmers make better use of the computerized machines they buy, as well as provide tools that better evaluate the state of crops, allowing adjustments to improve agricultural yields.

Brazilian startup Prime Field on Tuesday closed a contract to provide 80 WiFi mobile bases to Bunge Açúcar e Bionergia, the sugar and ethanol arm of commodities trader Bunge Ltd.

“They need to connect their cane harvesters during the crop, to improve logistics, and since there is no internet coverage in most of the fields they use our remote bases for WiFi,” said Francisco Mello, Prime Field’s founder, who is seeking an investment partner to produce Bunge’s order.

The company already has contracts with France’s Tereos and with BP Biocombustíveis SA, a biofuel company owned by BP Plc.

Israel’s SeeTree was also at Agrishow. The company, which raised $15 million from investors, offers services for permanent crops such as orange trees. It develops a health profile of the trees, looking for problems such as the citrus greening disease.

“Once we complete the establishment of our service in the citrus sector, we will progress to additional crops, according to market needs and our capabilities. It is our goal to provide service to many permanent crops in Brazil,” said Chief Executive Israel Talpaz.

“Its a deluge of tech services and solutions,” said Sérgio Rocha, CEO of AgroTools, a leading Latin American ag tech founded as a start-up 10 years ago that grew to supply services to dozens of large corporations such as JBS, Walmart and Nestle.

AgroTools has a line of products developed from its earth observation systems. It helps companies such as McDonald’s and large commodities traders, for example, to avoid sourcing raw material from areas in Brazil that suffered recent deforestation.

Rocha says the company is finishing a round to invite new investors. It plans to raise $25 million in the next 90 days.

Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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